Friday, December 19, 2008

Puma Perl's Belinda and her Friends by David McLean (Chapbook Review)

Puma Perl's Belinda and her Friends
Review by David McLean

This chapbook, the first by Puma Perl, is an exceptionally real depiction of life in a part of New York in the last millennium, where heroin is an integral part of life, where life is cold but full of a transient warmth, where hearts are larger than you might expect. It depicts a character Belinda and her encounter with a living in a world shared with several very vividly portrayed characters who manage to snatch some meaning from the worthless life to which the very poor are subjected everywhere -

so the red bandana tied around her forehead
meant nobody got hit yet not even any yelling
there was beer and twenty dollar
bills in two pockets it was a good day and it
happened twice a month and everyone was happy

The book steadfastly refrains from preaching, it does not whine about unscrupulous dealers and the evils of welfare, it shows instead of preaching. And it exudes an almost unbearable nostalgia like Burroughs calling down the centuries with no voice and lips for boys who are gone and times that are gone and maybe never really existed, except here the times and people were real, real as children and a mother's obligation

(our secrets shared and buried in benches
we drank beer through a straw
our kids raced across the playground
fearless wild-haired unruly
dropping juice boxes, crushing pretzels
we stayed for hours after everyone had left
whispering stories, picking up kids as they fell)

Puma Perl is an extraordinary poet, she captures a feel here so exquisitely and a sense of place that seems entirely appropriate to listening to Willie De Ville, it's “so, so real” now, and it's the sort of life he used to evoke as a young man. “I ain't no rocket just a shooting star”

I feel our last words as the sun streams down
We are the unknown ancestors
We are picture frames, empty as a midnight sandbox
Only imaginary friends left to tell the tales
of whispered secrets hidden in
brightly painted, but still broken benches

This poetry is nostalgic and beautiful, it is nostalgic in the sense that is a longing for presence and being and the ability of being to defy nonentity and lying time. Belinda died, like junkies tend to do, so she is absolutely absent now, exists nowhere. Thus the words do poetry's duty by pretending that she exists there. In a sense that makes the words a homage to life, assuming it to be something worth preserving, all the futile living, and this is what makes it sad and beautiful. Saying that we have souls is just another way of saying that we'd quite like to be immutable and dead like stones. Better to be Belindas and be temporary, finally go forever, but in the meantime get drunk and very, very stoned.

Author bio:

David McLean is Welsh but has lived in Sweden since 1987. He lives there in a cottage on a hill with a woman, five selfish cats, and a stupid puppy. Details of his three available full length books, various chapbooks, and over 700 poems in or forthcoming at more than 300 places online or in print over the last couple of years, are at his blog at htpp:// He has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, whatever that is. He would very much like you to buy his books so he can drink more. A new chapbook "of dead snakes" is due at Rain over Bouville in Feb 2009, and one from Poptritus Press in the summer.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Good review of one of my favorite poets by one of my favorite poets.